-Photo by Jordan McPherson
The Florida football team closed out National Signing Day with a top-10 class and the 24th-ranked men’s basketball team pulled off a huge 88-66 upset win over eighth-ranked Kentucky to give Mike White the biggest win of his two-year Gators career. But beyond the gridiron and the O’Dome court, other Florida teams had a successful week. Here are the highlights.
Perez becoming a force for men’s tennis
Alfredo Perez didn’t hold back.
The sophomore from Havana, Cuba, and the 13th-ranked player in the ITA college tennis rankings playing on the show court for the No. 11 Gators men’s tennis team fought through rally after rally, point after point, game after game with UCLA’s Gage Brymer, the No. 11 player in the ITA college tennis rankings.
With Perez serving for match point, the meet in his hands, he had one more battle to survive.
And when Brymer missed his final shot of the nearly minute-long rally, Perez let out a yell of excitement as his teammates ran toward him at full force.
Perez’s final successful rally clinched UF’s 4-2 win over the No. 6 Bruins on Sunday, marking Florida’s second top-10 wins in as many days. The Gators also defeated No. 8 Southern California 4-3 on Saturday.
“Beating two top-10 teams, it feels really good,” said Perez, who is undefeated on the No. 1 court after six dual matches this season. “It shows the rest of the country that we’re not here to mess around.”
The individual victory was also redemption for Perez, a graduate of Miami’s Coral Gables High.
The 6-3 right-hander faced Brymer in the Round of 32 at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships back in November. Perez lost in three sets (6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2). He wasn’t going to lose to Brymer again.
“For Alfredo to get that today, he had to dig deep,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “There were times in that match when he got behind in the first set a break and he never backed down.”
Also winning their singles matches for Florida (6-0) on Sunday were sophomore McClain Kessler, freshman Johannes Ingildsen and senior Elliott Orkin, who needed a tiebreak round to clinch the straight-set victory.
Against USC on Saturday, UF dropped the doubles point before the quartet of Perez, Orkin Ingildsen and Kesser won their singles matches. USC won final two singles matches after the win was already decided.
UF will next face defending national champion and top-ranked Virginia on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. After that, UF will return to Charlottesville for the ITA National Indoor Championships.
Gymnastics puts up high road score in loss
Despite not having to count a score lower than 9.8 and putting up a season-high road score, the No. 3 Florida gymnastics team fell to No. 6 Alabama, 197.825-197.425, on Friday in Tuscaloosa.
The Gators (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) were consistent on all four events and had the chance to come away with a fifth straight win to open the year, but the Crimson Tide pulled away in the final rotation.
Alabama (3-3, 2-2 SEC), up by just .075 after three rotations, was almost flawless on the floor, posting a 49.625 while Florida managed a 49.3 on the balance beam to close out the even. The Crimson Tide were boosted by a perfect 10 by Kiana Winston and three more scores in the 9.9 range on the floor.
UF managed just one event title on the night, with junior transfer Rachel Slocum posting an event-high-tying 9.925 on the vault.
Despite the loss, Florida’s 197.425 was a solid road score that will more than likely only help them when rankings move from overall average scores to Regional Qualifying Scores after next week’s matches. With the RQS rankings, team rankings are based on six total scores: The team’s top three road scores and then the next three highest scores regardless of where the meet is held. From there, the top score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged.
UF hosts No. 9 Georgia on Friday.
Top-ranked Women’s Tennis defeats No. 3 Pepperdine
A west-coast swing didn’t slow down the top-ranked Florida women’s tennis team.
The Gators made quick work of No. 3 Pepperdine in Malibu, California, cruising to a 5-2 victory on Saturday.
After winning the doubles point, Florida (3-0) won its first two matches on Courts 4 and 5. Junior Josie Kuhlman cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory and was quickly followed by Brooke Austin, who won 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.
After Pepperdine took a win on Court 2, senior Kourtney Keegan clinched Florida’s win with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-0) win on the No. 6 court.
The victory was also coach Roland Thornqvist’s 450th of his UF career.
Next up for UF is the National Indoor Championships, which begin on Friday.
UF track and field weight throw record falls
Redshirt sophomore thrower AJ McFarland broke an almost five-year-old school record Saturday when he recorded a 21.67-meter toss in the weight throw at the Virginia Tech “Doc Hale” Elite Meet on Saturday. The previous record of 21.60 meters was set by Jeremy Postin in 2012.
Women’s basketball falls again
Despite a 25-point performance from freshman Delicia Washington, the Florida women’s basketball team fell 84-76 on the road to Texas A&M on Thursday.
Florida trailed by three at halftime (42-39) and cut its deficit to one on a couple occasions in the third quarter, but an 11-0 run from the Aggies midway through the frame essentially put the game away.
With the loss, Florida is now 11-11 on the year and 2-7 in conference play.
The Gators host Ole Miss on Monday night.